A new country! We haven't had that happen to us in Europe in quite a few years. Here we were in Kate and Nick's living room in Bristol on Boxing Day 2009. As a Christmas gift to us they presented us with tickets for us, themselves and Nick's folks to take an Easy Jet flight directly from Bristol to Barcelona, Spain. This is a country we have long wanted to explore but for some reason it has remained off our radar.
Thankfully, after the long flight from Seattle to Bristol, this one was short and before we knew it we were banking out over the Mediterranean on approach to Barcelona's massive airport. This place was built to take care of the Olympic athletes and tourists arriving back in 1992. From the looks of it the place was way over built. Huge expanses of check-in desks sat unused as did whole wings of gates darkened and empty. A long walk through the airport took us to a train which whisked us into the city and the central train station.
A six block hike with our luggage and we were at the front desk of our hotel, a very nice 3 star in a good location. It was only a short 4 blocks to the nearest Metro station, an easy to use, inexpensive mode of transport around the city. A prepaid card of 10 rides amounted to around 70 cents per ride.
We took a 2 hour nap after checking in and then rejoined everyone to go to La Rambla, a pedestrian street running about 2 miles through the center of Barcelona and ending at the Mediterranean Sea. Beautiful Christmas lights hung in the trees. They looked like stars and occasionally certain of them appeared to fall out of the sky. Street performers lined the boulevard dressed as plants, angels, you name it. Wandering through the maze of side streets we came upon a small plaza where a line of people were in front of a church waiting for what turned out to be a guitar concert. We purchased tickets for the following evening and enjoyed a wonderful home grown classical guitarist named Miguel Gutierrez. Fabulous player!
A street or two over we found a delightful little bistro with a warm friendly proprietor. The prix fixe dinner was only 16 Euros. We started out with a duck pate topped with a raspberry jam and crostini along with a bit of green salad. The main for me was a steak and eggplant. We walked back to the Metro stop in a warm tropical evening, a far cry from the below freezing temps we left behind in Bristol. I really have a hard time with this continental habit of eating dinner at 10:00 at night.
A nice buffet hotel breakfast and off we went on day 2 of our Barcelona adventure. Explored the Palace of Music the nearby cathedral. Sitting in front of Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece cathedral Sagrada Familia is absolutely awe inspiring. It has to be one of the wonders of the world. Still unfinished after well over a hundred years of construction, this towering tribute to God is not to be missed when visiting this city. It is my numero uno attraction. Each side of the exterior is a different theme. One side decorated to the nativity, another to the crucifixion. There is is still much to be done but this is the work of nothing less than a genius. Several other buildings around the city and a hill top park also display the work of this amazing architect.
Wandered through La Bocheria, the huge public market. I was in my element here. I could have spent the better part of the day wandering the aisles here. Everything under the sun was displayed beautifully and hawked by friendly, smiling folks behind glistening seafood, perfect fruit, brightly colored candies, as well as meat, poultry, eggs, and on and on and on!
Had our first paella at lunch today. The kids and we shared two very different kinds. One a more traditional seafood type and the other a kind of gratin with a sausage, chicken and an egg omelet over the top. Interesting. Had a delicious Tempernillo wine with it. This was supposed to be one of the top 10 paella restaurants in Barcelona.
After lunch I headed back to the hotel for a nap while everyone else went to see the Catylan Art Museum. It was New Year's Eve and after my nap I discovered I wasn't just tired, I was dealing with a gastro-intestinal issue that kept me home from the New Years festivities. Everyone else went out for the evening while I slept and slept in between fireworks explosions echoing down the high rise canyons. From the stories Leslie shared at breakfast the next morning, I hadn't missed much. Not that the family hadn't had a lot of fun, but rather it was crowded, everyone was out very late (2 or 3 in the morning), loud, hugely crowded--in short, everything I have the hardest time dealing with anytime.
Walked up to the Gaudi Park on our last day in Barcelona. Beautiful, crowded but not to crowded and a lovely day. This World Heritage Site is another must see here in Barcelona. The views are worth the climb alone. The Gaudi columns, the fanciful bench seats, little homes and gift shop are all just wonderful stops. Lots of photo ops. Lunch was at Casa Joan, named for artist Joan Miro, right along La Rambla. We all met for our final lunch in Barcelona.
We flew back that evening arriving back at the flat in Bristol by midnight, shivering in the English deep freeze and quickly missing the warmth of Barcelona.